It would, in a way, make great sense for Alexis to follow in her mother’s footsteps—if she could tone down the act a bit. There would seem to be an audience of young domestic goddesses out there who feel the same way as Alexis about Rachael Ray and some of the other age-appropriate offerings. “She drives me crazy,” Alexis says of Ray. “She’s annoying, and she eats shit out of a can.”
At the premiere party for Whatever, Martha!, Martha Stewart is having trouble being heard. “Music,” she says, bonking her wireless mike on the forearm of Chad Youngblood, the 38-year-old general manager of Fine Living who has flown in from Tennessee to stand next to the doyenne of domesticity and look helpless. A full two minutes pass, but the music stays on. “I’m going to kill somebody,” she says quietly through a tight smile. Finally, the music fades, but now the microphones don’t work. “There’s just another check we won’t pay!” she shouts cheerfully, and everybody laughs, except, presumably, the AV guy.
Martha, in her comments, explains why she’s subjecting herself to such treatment. If she must be, as she says, “the object of the sort of deriding … remarks of Alexis and Jennifer,” then at least it’s in the service of bringing a new audience to her work, which she describes as “teaching the world how to do things.” Martha’s an acknowledged marketing genius; she’s not going to allow her skills as a mother to be called into question on television without a major upside. “I know that,” Martha had said coolly, when I’d meekly told her I thought the Whatever brand spoke to my generation more than hers did. “I’m smart. And I think I understand what’s going on in the world.”
There’s profit in self-deprecation, or, in the case of the Stewart women, plain deprecation. Onstage, Martha mentions that her daughter and Koppelman have been trying to craft along with the old segments, “sometimes successfully and sometimes not.” She looks down into the front row. “Why are you looking at me?” Jennifer asks. “You have to practice a little bit,” Martha says. “Jennifer’s a homemaker but not a crafter.” Then the Alexis bragging begins. “By the way,” Martha says, “it was Alexis’s idea—now see, entrepreneur—that the real teaching segment à la Martha, be put on the Internet daily to go with the segments on the Whatever, Martha! show, so if you really want to make a ribbon rose, you can watch the real thing without the over- riding comments.”
Tomorrow, Alexis will be on the radio talking about how drunk she’d gotten at the party, how the whole group—she, Jennifer, Martha, and others—ended up at Nobu where she’d mistakenly complimented Michael Caine on being her all-time favorite James Bond. But right now mother and daughter are pushing their high-heeled feet together to be photographed by Alexis’s best friend, Kevin Sharkey, the editorial director of decorating for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. “She is the hottest, sexiest up-and-coming Andy Rooney there is,” Sharkey had told me earlier, an image so bizarre I share it with Alexis and Martha. “I think Andy Rooney is God’s gift,” says Alexis. Martha perks up. “He was on my show,” she says. “I know,” Alexis says. “We did his segment.” “Oh, you did,” Martha says, offering an exaggerated eye roll. “I don’t want to hear about it.” But Martha stays put as her daughter tells the story of Rooney’s 1993 visit to the Martha show, and how he took a patronizing tone with her mother. “After we did the segment, my mother comes in and says, ‘Do you hate Andy Rooney like I hate Andy Rooney?’ ” Alexis says. Martha smiles and makes no effort to correct any part of the story about her distaste for the nonagenarian 60 Minutes star. I have to wonder if perhaps it’s true what some say around the office, that what comes out of Alexis’s mouth dwells unspoken in Martha’s head, that Alexis is Martha’s id, free at last.